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"December 7th," directed by John Ford, begins with the aftermath of the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, nicknamed "the Navy's hundred million
dollar fist." Authentic footage of the invasion is mixed with reenactments
to provide a complete portrait of the events of that fateful day. An
extended sequence pays tribute to the American soldiers killed in the
attack, many of whom are individually profiled, complete with
testimonials offered by surviving family members. American bravery is
not only embodied by the fallen, it is proven by the resolve that comes
in response to the attack. The film culminates in a profile of the
Navy's recovery of one sunken vessel in particular, employing the effort
as a metaphor for the American cause, "a symbol of the fighting spirit
of our men who build and man our ships." Much like this successful
refitting, the film suggests that American forces will rise from destruction, stronger than they were before.
This movie is part of the collection: Cinemocracy
Producer: John Ford
Audio/Visual: sound, color
Creative Commons license: Public Domain
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Subject: An Angry America
The anger and disgust of the American people is reflected in the words of the narrator. It is refreshing to witness the tolerance given by this film to Japanese-Americans living in the Hawaiian Islands at the time of the attack, a strange contrast to the virulent vilification of Premier Tojo. Heartening to witness is the footage of the salvage and repair operations at Pearl Harbor in the aftermath of the attack, a monumental task performed in a way that was nothing short of miraculous.
Subject: Long versions
The long versions are at
The link above is a Department of War print @ 81:32 minutes.
The link above is an OSS print @ 75:03 minutes.
"December 7th" - this short 30 minute version - was nominated for an Oscar for "Documentary Short Subject" in 1944.
The long versions were censored and unreleased.
Subject: A day that will live in infamy
I learned a lot from this documentary.. From the inexperienced lieutenant on duty that morning that messed up and when he was told about the sound of planes approaching Hawaii, assumed that they were probably only just some B-17's that were flying in from the mainland, to seeing some additional footage that I had never seen before of the ensuing battle that shot down 25% of the invading Japanese planes.. It really gives you an insight to what it must have been like to have been right there in the middle of all the bombs exploding and the strafing and seeing 50 of those Japanese Zero's catching fire and plunging into the ocean.. If only we would have had that 30 minutes of warning to launch a counter-attack, or our carriers would have been alerted and present to intercept , the headlines would have read: "200 Jap planes wiped out in sneak attack attempt on Hawaii."
Actually, John Ford had little to do with this movie. He nominally set up the project before heading to England for duty with the OSS. It was actually put together by the great cinematographer Gregg Toland, immortal for lensing Citizen Kane and The Best Years of Our Lives and so many other great films.
I bought a copy of this propaganda film years ago and was disgusted by the racism exhibited in it. A pathetic piece of junk, and a reminder of how low we Americans can sink in the pursuit of a cause.
Christine Hennig -
Subject: We're All Friendly HawaiiansNo Japanese Here
Directed by John Ford, this retelling of the events of December 7, 1941 is a masterful piece of propaganda, stirring the emotions without straying too far from the truth. The scenes of devastation in the aftermath of the attack are particularly tragic. Surprising is the scene where Ford has several of the slain GIs "speak" to usthe ones he picks are of several different races and ethnic backgrounds. They are all narrated by the same person and the question is asked why they all sound alike. The answer: "We are all Americans." This little piece of tolerance for diversity was way ahead of its time, though it is somewhat offset by the stereotyped "Jap" voice Tojo is given in a later scene. Another amazing sequence is that of the changes made in the civilian lives of Hawaiians in the aftermath of the attack. We see schoolchildren ducking down in foxholes and trying on gas masks, and it reminds us that Hawaii was the one piece of U.S. territory to actually see combat. Most interesting is a sequence where we see Japanese-Americans in Hawaii removing all traces of Japanese culture from their homes and businessesthe most striking being the guy who takes down the sign "Banzai Cafe" and replaces it with "Keep 'Em Flying Cafe" (I want both signs, of course, for the Film Ephemera Museum of Quirky Devices). The ironic thing about this, though, is the fact that Hawaii was the only place in the U.S. where Japanese-Americans were allowed to keep their homes and businesses, rather than be shuffled off to internment camps. One thing that increases the historical interest of this film is the fact that some scenes had portions of the frame blacked out by the censor. This is an essential piece of WWII propaganda.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****+. Overall Rating: *****.